A Chat with Editor Helen Carr

Our wonderful Editor, Helen Carr, took some time to talk to me about the her job, the books she’s currently working on, what she loves about her work and advice for aspiring editors!

What is your role in The O’Brien Press?

I’m a senior editor at The O’Brien Press. We’re a small company, 15-20 staff, so all the editors turn their hands to everything – I do managerial tasks, substantive editing, copyediting and proofreading, as well as working on blurbs, handling reprints and doing a certain amount of admin. I edit or manage about twenty books a year – a mix of general and children’s – on subjects ranging from fiction to current affairs, cookery to sport. There’s a great range within the children’s books I edit too; it can be anything from YA fiction, to picture books, to middle-grade non-fiction.

What do you like best about your role?

I love the variety. Some days I might spend mainly copyediting, while other days could be full of administration and planning. In terms of editing, I think my favourite thing is the substantive edit. I love meeting authors, talking about their books and their characters, getting a feel for the book and how we could work on it to shape it. I’ve just had a meeting with one of my authors, Ger Siggins. Ger is the author of the six-book ‘Rugby Spirit’ series about young rugby star, Eoin Madden and the ghosts he encounters. Now we’re discussing the first book in his exciting new ‘Sports Academy’ series, which will be out in early autumn. It’s called Atlantis United and it’s about five sports-mad kids who are selected for a very special and mysterious sports academy where they are trained to become the best in the world – and have many adventures along the way. It was great to talk through the plot and hear what he has planned for the characters in future books.

Helen with one our our children’s authors, Anna Carey at a tea party to celebrate the launch of Mollie on the March.

I also really love the development process on kids’ picture books. I work very closely with our designer, Emma Byrne and we’re currently finalising a beautiful and informative picture book called Island of Adventures; Fun things to do all around Ireland by Jennifer Farley. It’s going to be gorgeous, and I think families will love looking at the fun-filled, full-colour spreads of Irish adventures – everything from surfing to St Patrick’s Day parades features! I love to see the story take shape and see the images develop from roughs to final art.

What other new projects or titles are you excited about at the moment?

I’m just finalising the third book in a series by our best-selling children’s author Judi Curtin. It’s a follow-up to Time After Time and Stand By Me, called You’ve Got A Friend and it’s about best friends Molly and Beth who travel through time, to places connected with

From Left to Right: Bestselling children’s author Judi Curtin, Helen Carr, children’s book author and illustrator Tatyana Feeney, O’Brien Press Designer Emma Byrne. Taking at the announcement of the Irish Book Awards Short-list 2017.

people they know. In this book, the girls head back to the 70s to try to help Molly’s dad with something that happened in his past. This is the third series of Judi’s that I’ve edited – fifteen books in all so far!

I’ve also just finished working on a historical fiction book for children, also due out this autumn: Spies: Ireland’s War of Independence by Brian Gallagher. Both Brian & Judi’s books involved a bit of fact-checking and historical research during the edit – though researching fashions and music of the 1970s was quite different to looking at the actions of the Black & Tans and Michael Collins’ rebels in 1920. Both were equally fascinating worlds to immerse myself in, though.

What skills do you need to be an editor?

All editors need to be quite detail-oriented, to read widely and have a feel for what makes a good book. I think in a small company, you also need to be flexible and ready to jump from one task to another and from one type of book to another – you may find yourself going straight from a meeting with an author about their fantasy epic to doing final checks on a book or proofreading a blog post. In The O’Brien Press we have great communication between departments; Editorial, Publicity and Design share an office, which I think makes us all very aware of how interlinked our roles are.

If someone said ‘I’d like to be an editor too!’ what would you say to them?

My first job in publishing was on reception, which I think is a great training ground as you can learn about every aspect of the business there. Interning is also a great way to get experience, if you can. Get involved in the book world – blogging about books, reviewing books you’ve read and attending conferences and events are great ways to meet people and to learn about the book trade.

Helen Carr, June 2018